E-Bricks: the foundation of Smart Cities

The future development of Smart Cities will be only achievable in conjunction with a technological leap in the underlying ICT infrastructure

While cities do not live on technology alone, ICT is an essential driver of a community’s economic and social development. As such, cities around the globe should be –and many are – seeking to harness the benefits of the latest generation of ICT.


Dr. A.N.Sarkar 
Ex-Senior Professor (International Business) & Dean (Research), Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, 3& 4 Institutional Areas, Jasola (Sarita Vihar), New Delhi


Take the Chinese metropolis of Chengdu, which is in the process of adopting fiber optics and other technology to control traffic, police, firefighters and ambulances from a large operations center. In addition, Internet access will soon be available from any point in the city. South Korea’s Songdo will likewise soon have integrated all its information systems for buildings, hospitals, transport and businesses. In South Africa, Johannesburg is teaming up with a technology company to build a broadband network that will provide high-speed services to businesses and local residents by the first quarter of 2013. This is not to say that ICT is the exclusive domain of major metropolises. Consider the case of the satellite town of Sant Cugat del Vallès, located just outside Barcelona, which has fitted one of its streets with a network of sensors that enables the council to manage a whole range of services remotely, including traffic, parking, waste management, trash receptacles, environmental control, lighting and Wi-Fi. Thus, going by the recent global trend, we need to believe that the Internet of Things has, of late, become an in-thing for providing E. Bricks in building the ‘Smart Cities’. E-government operations related to E.Bricks require citizens and external organizations to receive appropriate e-services, delivered by an organization’s automated business processes and supported by information and communication technologies (ICT). The delivering organization must therefore be able to manage these services, typically through business units and officers who are responsible for the development of business processes and ICT. This area of service management can be reinforced and strengthened, however, by using architectures: business architectures, information systems architectures, technology architectures and the processes used to produce them

The Smart Cities are at the Forefront of the Future Internet

The smart city vision does involve hard infrastructure such as introducing smart grids alongside various forms of renewable energy generation and building new systems of mobility based on distributed networks but is perhaps primarily articulated through ‘soft infrastructure’ i.e. social networks and communities, legal and cultural systems, and various forms of ICT. Equally, the output of such thinking, through the emerging medium of urban informatics, can often be engaging, informative, even beautiful, realized in the form of increasingly refined audio-visual displays and interfaces, installations, websites and systems, all driven via these real-time learning layers overlaid onto the existing city. This has the effect of ‘making the invisible visible’ thus raising awareness about urban infrastructure, activity and ecosystem.

"The future development of Smart Cities will be only achievable in conjunction with a technological leap in the underlying ICT infrastructure"

The successful development of the ‘Smart Cities paradigm’ will “require a unified ICT infrastructure to allow a sustainable economic growth” (http://www.nokiasiemensnetworks.com/ news-events/publications/unite-magazine-february-2010/the-ictbehind-cities-of-the-future), and this unified ICT platform must be suitable to “model, measure, optimize, control, and monitor complex interdependent systems of dense urban life”. Once major challenges of unified urban-scale ICT platforms are identified, it is clear that the future development of Smart Cities will be only achievable in conjunction with a technological leap in the underlying ICT infrastructure. In this work one would tend to advocate that this technological leap can be done by considering Smart Cities at the forefront of the recent vision of the Future Internet (FI). Although there is no universally accepted definition of the Future Internet, it can be approached as “a socio-technical system comprising Internet-accessible information and services, coupled to the physical environment and human behavior, and supporting smart applications of societal importance” (http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/foi/library/docs/fippp-research-challenges-for-coreplatform-issue-1-1.pdf). Thus the FI can transform a Smart City into an open innovation platform supporting vertical domain of business applications built upon horizontal enabling technologies. The most relevant basic FI pillars for a Smart City environment are the following (http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/foi/ events/fippp3/fi-ppp-workshop-report-final.pdf ):

  • The Internet of Things (IoT): defined as a global network infrastructure based on standard and interoperable communication protocols where physical and virtual “things” are seamlessly integrated into the information network (Sundmaeker, et al, 2010).
  • The Internet of Services (IoS): flexible, open and standardized enablers that facilitate the harmonization of various applications into interoperable services as well as the use of semantics for the understanding, combination and processing of data and information from different service provides, sources and formats.
  • The Internet of People (IoP): envisaged as people becoming part of ubiquitous intelligent networks having the potential to seamlessly connect, interact and exchange information about themselves and their social context and environment.


E-Bricks: The Foundation of Smart Cities

E-Bricks of the smart cities -the core conceptual domain of this paper- attempts to integrate information from multiple data sources (sensor networks, information systems, internet etc.) and offer on these common data processing infrastructure, value addition and advanced support for third parties to develop services on processed data and make them available openly following a scheme of Open Data System for public consumption. The major thematic content of the chapter, inter alia, includes: developing a policy roadmap for smart cities and use of internet, cloud computing , smart cities drivers and ICT applications in search of forging business linkages, smart city architecture and building blocks, mobile applications, Transformational ‘Smart Cities’ for Cyber Security and Resilience etc. At the outset, let us take a look into the near future to see how these trends will affect city development. Figure 1 shows how technologies like big data and analytics, mobility, social media, and cloud provide a foundation for meeting city business goals and creating valuable services.


Figure 1: Smart City of the Future Value Architecture. Source: IDC Government Insights, 2013

Today, less than 1% of things that could be connected are connected to the Internet or intelligent systems. IDC projects that by 2020, there will be 212 billion "things" in the world and that by 2017, 3.5 billion people will connect to the Internet, 64% of them via mobile devices.

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"Cities are the 80% of the global GDP, but they consume around 75% of global primary energy and are responsible for 70% of the global greenhouse"

Smart City Framework

Smart City Framework (SCF) is conceived to be a high level architecture of a platform that describes the scope of the innovations expected from the City-Pulse Project and the way they are integrated together in a coherent conceptual system. The purpose of this Framework concept is to serve as a reference model and architecture (RMA) to be used by smart city stakeholders, project partners and any other interested parties when engaged in technical discussions about smart cities services based on real-time information streams. The Smart City Framework is expected to be an initial architecture to set the main concepts, common language and the boundaries for the whole project while the details are expected to change within the course of the project execution. The Figure 2 presents the architecture in different views, functional, interface and information, security and privacy view and thus explains respectively what the framework does, how components interact with each other, the generation and flow of information, and the necessary mechanisms to address security and privacy concerns about city and citizen relevant data. In the presentation of the interface and information view each City-Pulse Work package (WP) has provided more detailed descriptions of their individual architectures, which, inter alia, includes High-level view of Smart City Framework.


Figure 2: High-level view of Smart City Framework. Source: Annalisa Cocchia , Smart and Digital City: A Systematic Literature 

Wipro’s Digital City: A Case Study for a Digital Smart City

Wipro’s Digital City Design and ICT Master Planning project determines a best fit Digital City design, expected ROI and impact on operating costs, by integration of technologies for core Digital City services.

Wipro Technologies defines a Digital City (Smart or Techno City) as a city that monitors and integrates conditions of all of its critical infrastructures, better optimizes its resources, plans its preventive maintenance activities, and monitors security aspects while maximizing services to its citizens. The concept of a Digital City is rapidly gaining momentum across many different urban areas, with various stakeholders trying to determine the right approach to deliver the vision of a Smarter City. At the core of the success of any Digital City program is the impact on the citizen. All capabilities provided by the Digital City are focused around empowering citizens and enabling citizen leaders. In addition, these capabilities provide City Governments a clearer picture of the needs of a city, enabling more precise intervention and more efficient execution of citizen services. The crux to realizing this vision of a Digital City is Information and Communication technology (ICT). Digital cities depend on ICT to operate a diverse range of city functions and services. Technology ensures that elements of physical infrastructure are able to transmit real-time data on a city’s status, by way of sensors and processors applied within real-world infrastructure. This Physical to Digital integration brings about a convergence of processes that enables a digital city to function as an independent intelligence unit.

Developing a Policy Roadmap for Smart Cities and use of Internet

The future Internet technologies and expected impact on cities will allow defining an innovation roadmap towards smart cities. Cities are increasingly aware of the concept of “smart city” and actively developing strategies towards the goal of becoming "smart" and manage more efficiently city resources and addressing development and inclusion challenges. Part of the development towards smart cities is the co-creation/crowd sourcing paradigm, people-led testing and implementation of technologies and ICT-based applications in sectors such as health and assisted living, participative government, energy management, and new work environments. The roadmap summarized here is based on a two-dimensional mapping of layers and time periods. The vertical dimension considers the following layers: technological change, business change, policy change and social change. The time dimension includes the short term, mid-term and longer term developments. In order to enhance the policy relevance of the road mapping approach, we focus on the systemic character of innovations related to smart cities, which require concurrent processes of socioeconomic and technological change. To provide guidelines to this process, the road mapping approach draws from systemic change literature taking into account several characteristics of systemic change which relate to the transformation towards smart cities, e.g. regimes, barriers, transitions, and niches of novel solutions.

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"In the near-future, the advancement in mobile access technologies will offer high-speed LTE access on all mobile devices"

Cities are engines of economic growth, accounting for 80% of the global GDP. But they also consume around 75% of global primary energy and are responsible for 70% of the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (UN-Habitat, 2015). All sectors associated with urbanization (transport, building construction and maintenance, housing, waste management, energy, etc.) are registering trends that raise sustainability issues. Rapid and unplanned urbanization has led to growth of slums, sprawl, housing and infrastructure shortages, social segregation, and exclusion. Accompanied by motorization, it has caused congestion and hazardous air pollution. Cities are where inequalities are most acute (one-third of urban dwellers in the developing world, for example, live in slums), where threats to culture and heritage are rising, and where the heavy concentration of people and assets poses high level of challenges and disaster risks.

Cloud Computing and Smart Cities

Cloud computing is based on several technology advances related to high-speed networks, virtualization, and standardization of platforms and applications. However, "cloud computing is a new way of delivering computing resources, not a new technology" (Australian Government, 2011) providing Internet delivered computer services and a series of new business models of outsourcing (Figure 3). The US National Institute for Standards and Technology offers a stylized description of cloud computing as composed of five essential characteristics (on-demand self service, ubiquitous network access, metered use, elasticity, and resource pooling), three service models (software as a service-SaaS, platform as a service -PaaS, and infrastructure as a service-IaaS), and four deployment modes (private, community, public and hybrid clouds).


Figure 3. Gartner Hype of Cloud Computing. Source: Gartner (2010)

"Amsterdam has developed a vision for numerous connected solutions that could pave the way to a smarter, greener urban environment"

Foresight estimations about developments in cloud computing is given by the Gartner Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing, which is positioning 38 technologies of this field at different stages of the Hype Cycle. In this type of analysis, each Hype Cycle is composed of five stages representing the typical progression of an emerging technology: (1) "Technology Trigger" or technology breakthrough and product launch that generate significant interest of the press, (2) "Peak of Inflated Expectations" the phase of over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations, (3) "Trough of Disillusionment" of reduced press interest because technologies fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable, (4) "Slope of Enlightenment" with experimentations about the benefits and practical application of the technology, and (5) "Plateau of Productivity" in which the benefits of technologies become widely demonstrated and accepted.

Semantic Web, Linked Data, Ontologies and Smart Cities

The OVUM report on Smart Cities considered cloud computing and the IoT as fundamental layers of ubiquitous connectivity on which stands a layer of open public data and advanced analytics for fast-based decisions. The open standards trends have expended to government data and many agencies are providing access to datasets stimulating the creation of applications for information retrieval and decision making. Open data from various sources, government, sensors, citizens and businesses, offer opportunities for advanced analytics and intelligence to detect patterns, generate alerts, visualize information and predict trends. In data-driven decisions, techniques for forecasting and predictive analytics are well established in many domains. What is relatively new is the semantic meaning provided by ontologies, like the Good-Relations annotator tool for creating rich RDF meta-data describing products or services and the introduction of HTML. The cloud will offer additional functionalities for linked data as any object will be related to objects contained in the cloud. The semantic web is expected to breaks down barriers, merging data from different sources and presenting it in meaningful way. Social media based collaboration and collective intelligence can reach a higher level of efficiency and information accuracy. Future media research and technologies offer a series of solutions that might work in parallel to Internet of Things and embedded systems providing new opportunities for content management. Media Internet technologies is at the crossroads of digital multimedia content and Internet technologies, which encompasses media being delivered through Internet networking technologies, and media being generated, consumed, shared and experienced on the web.

Amsterdam: Connected Public Lighting within Smart Cities

Over the past decade, the city of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, has developed a vision for collaborating, envisioning, developing, and testing numerous connected solutions that could pave the way to a smarter, greener urban environment (http://www.cisco.com/web/strategy/docs/scc/cisco_amsterdam_cs.pdf). A number of projects were launched, beginning in 2006, as Amsterdam identified ways to improve sustainable living/working, public spaces, and mobility. It’s a showcase for the “smart” metropolis of the future —in which tech giants like Cisco, Microsoft, and IBM see big profits in helping governments save by tracking data on everything from garbage to traffic to selfies. But not everyone is happy about this new urban reality. Most recently, the city has been exploring the potential for a connected public lighting infrastructure. With a mutual market focus around “livable” connected cities, Cisco and Philips are developing new concepts and innovations around network-enabled LED street lighting, including widespread education of elected officials, city managers, investors, and industry peers; development of new and powerful business ecosystems; and proofs of concept with leading cities. One engagement focused on the development of networked lighting and media content is in the Westergasfabriek zone of Amsterdam, in partnership with Philips, a real estate owner, and the city. This has resulted in a pilot that aims to provide an enhanced citizen experience by applying “design thinking” to enhance citizen experiences, and by developing the potential for on-demand, usage-based service provision; revenue-generation opportunities; and public-private partnership business models for networked civic services. There is a huge impact from developing a connected lighting solution across this city and globally.

Chicago: Developing Digital Planning and Neighborhood Services

Cisco and a wide range of public and private stakeholders in the city of Chicago are advancing a series of Smart + Connected Community initiatives (http://newsroom.cisco.com/press-release-content?articleId=678356). Objectives include fostering smarter working practices, incubating technology innovation, and promoting multi-stakeholder collaboration to investigate and enhance the social life of the city. As part of the Chicago STEM Education Initiative, a new Cisco STEM Lab at one of the City’s five Early College Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Schools was announced by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Cisco is developing this new STEM Lab and a Cisco Network Academy, which teaches students the skills needed to build, design, and maintain, networks — improving their career prospects while filling the global demand for networking professionals. Another agreement with the city, Cisco announced a partnership with Chicago land Entrepreneurial Center to build a new smart working center named “1871” that promotes entrepreneurship and collaboration throughout the city. In Chicago, the consortium has proposed three application concepts: Stay Safe, Community Report, and Safe Passage. Two of these — Stay Safe and Community Report — focus on synthesizing different sources of data (both user-generated reports and data collected by police, public agencies, or community organizations) and making this information available in a smart-phone application that uses a simple mapping interface and GPS. Over coming months, the Team Approach to Violence team will investigate the availability of different data sources, develop a demonstrator version of one of these concepts, and test the demonstrator app with community-based organizations in one or two South Side neighborhoods. The overall aim is to develop a demonstrator that can be tested and rolled out to other South Side neighborhoods.

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"At the core of the success of any Digital City program is the impact on the citizen"

New York: City24/7 Platform Informs, Protects, Revitalizes

To revitalize the world’s largest cities, City24/7 —a company committed to making public communications more accessible to everyone, everywhere— in collaboration with Cisco and the City of New York has launched an interactive platform that integrates information from open government programs, local businesses, and citizens to provide meaningful and powerful knowledge anytime, anywhere, on any device. In short, City24/7 delivers the information people need to know, where and when it helps them most. Located at bus stops, train stations, major entryways, shopping malls, and sports facilities, City24/7 Smart Screens incorporate touch, voice, and audio technology to deliver a wide array of hyper-local (about two square city blocks) information, services, and offerings in real time. The Smart Screens can also be accessed via Wi-Fi on nearby smart-phones, tablets, and laptop computers. The overarching goals of the City24/7 Smart Screens are to:

  • Inform by instantly connecting people with information that is relevant to their immediate proximity
  • Protect by giving local police and fire departments a citywide sensing, communications, and response network that can direct needed personnel and resources exactly where and when they are needed
  • Revitalize by increasing levels of commerce, investment, and tourism

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"In New York, City24/7 delivers the information people need to know, where and when it helps them most"

Innovation Ecosystems, Smart Cities and Living Labs

Many cities have endorsed the Smart City concept. The Digital Agenda initiative of the European Commission promotes Smart Cities and the Future Internet Commission has also launched a Smart Cities and Com energy efficient cities of tomorrow. However peripheral cities that endorse the Smart City concept. Cities seem often to benefit from the of “Smart City” for mobilizing citizens, enterprises and research organizations for starting up new development initiatives. For example, Saint Etienne, a French city, in a situation of declining manufacturing industry, has such as optical, mechanical engineering, medical technology and design. Tailored smart city strategy by focusing on “design for all” embedded within Design Creative City Living Lab has adopted designers, users and businesses, which are tailored to small and medium sized companies. Living Labs involve users at the earlier stage of the R&D process for co an open research and innovation ecosystem often based on a specific territory and involving a large diversity of stakeholders such as user communities (application pull), solution developers (technology push), research disciplines, local authorities and policy makers as the Living Lab ecosystem, through openness, multicultural and multidisciplinary aspects, conveys the necessary level of diversity, in empowering user communities it stimulates the emergence of breakthrough ideas, concepts and enterprises, especially SMEs, and users/citizens either as entrepreneurs or as communities to get access to technology infrastructures as well as science and innovation services. The main objective consists to co-create and explore new ideas and concepts, experiment new artefacts and evaluate breakthrough scenarios in a real life context that could be turned into successful innovations.

The Digital Agenda Initiative of the European Community

In 2011, the European in particular focusing on sized, small and even the Smart City concept. Cities seem often to benefit from the concept of “Smart City” for mobilizing citizens, enterprises and research organizations for starting up new that was some years ago evolved into new economic activities. This city has developed as the “Cité du Design”. The creation approaches are tailored to small and medium sized companies. A Living Lab is an innovation ecosystem often based on a specific territory and involving a large diversity of stakeholders such as user communities (application pull), solution developers well as investors. While the Living Lab ecosystem, through openness, multicultural and multidisciplinary aspects, conveys the necessary level of diversity, in empowering user communities it stimulates the emergence of scenarios leading to adoptable innovative solutions. It also allows enterprises, especially SMEs, and users/citizens either as entrepreneurs or as communities to get access to technology infrastructures as well as science and innovation services. The main objectives explore new ideas and concepts, experiment new artefacts and evaluate breakthrough scenarios in a real life context that could be turned into successful innovations.

Mobile Phones – A Catalyst for Smart City Applications

Smart-Phones today are embedded with a huge array of sensors and computing and communication resources. They are diminishing the difference between the virtual world and the real world by capturing the physical world data and making the mobile device more context-aware. The interesting part of the mobile sensing is that these smart sensors are constantly mobile in a given environment and furthermore they are attached to an interesting entity such as
the end-user. The all-pervasive nature of mobile phones lays out an extensive sensing fabric in the society thereby ticking off the first defining requirement for smart-city application. Secondly, most mobile devices are currently integrated with mobile cloud, which enables the offloading of mobile services to backend servers. This offers an unprecedented scalability and availability of vast computing resource which is useful for collecting large-scale sensor data. Data analysis may also be conducted in the back-end servers for intelligent usage of the collected data. This enables knowledge engineering and ticks off the second requirement of smart city application. Last but not the least, the advancement in mobile access technologies will in the near-future offer high-speed LTE access on all mobile devices. This would enable mobility and facilitate interlinking of data across vertical domains. The mobile apps are reachable to a vast majority of user-base through established app dissemination channels that exist today such as the app stores/markets. Furthermore majority of smart-phone platforms are open and programmable thereby offering very low entry barrier for third-party developers.

Future Issues

As mentioned earlier, concept of Smart Cities are being researched from various perspectives, Internet of Things (IoT) addresses the network perspective of smart cities, while Machine2Machine Communication addresses the communication perspectives and Future Internet addresses the service perspective of Smart Cities. Each paradigm has many unanswered questions and open issues. The common subset of research challenges faced by all the above mentioned research directions can be summarized as follows:

Scalability: With the rapid increase in number of smart devices coupled with heterogeneous type of devices, applications and interactions, Scalability is a primary technical challenge on the road to large-scale deployment of sensors and sensing environment. Heterogeneity mentioned above poses issues related to Inter-operability.

Privacy and Security: Huge of volume of sensor data that is expected to be aggregated and analyzed in the mobile cloud brings with it issues relating to security and privacy.

Data Processing and mining of vast amount of data poses the challenge of offering unified enriched and interoperable data description models. Similarly the freshness of data and maintaining other temporal requirements is also a big challenge.

Ubiquitous access, including mobility and service continuity enabling access and availability to data and services within the Smart city is still one of the primary challenges.

Lack of Testbeds: Many large IoT, and Smart city application deployments are jeopardized by the lack of Test-beds of the required scale, and suitable for the validation of recent research results. Many existing test-beds just offer experimentation and testing limited to small domain-specific environments or application specific deployments. While those may fulfill the needs as proof-of-concepts, they do not allow conclusive experimentation.

Protecting the Smart City’s Services

Smart grids and related infrastructure need protection from attacks that could cause severe stoppages to cities, public communities, industrial sites and essential services. Attackers exploiting vulnerabilities in SCADA systems (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), based on traditional software platforms, can lead to intrusions with the potential to disrupt data exchange between utility control centres and end users, and severely compromise the delivery of energy services (Figure 4). White listing techniques, used to ensure that only specified system applications and processes are active at any one time, are particularly effective against zero-day vulnerabilities and attacks in SCADA environments. Zero-day vulnerabilities are still unknown on the day of the attack, hence they are vulnerabilities against which no vendor has released a patch yet.


Figure 4 : Smart Services of Smart City

Intruders can also install malware designed to obtain sensitive information, to control the networks that operate the service and cause a denial-of-service situation. This can be countered through intrusion prevention techniques, coupled with robust policies for areas such as network usage, browser patches, email and user awareness and education. At end-user level, smart meters may simply be hacked and compromised for fraudulent purposes: to alter proof of consumption or to ‘steal’ energy from other users, while preventing the provider from detecting service flaws. In order to make it impossible to manipulate smart meters in large scale and advanced metering infrastructures (AMIs), public key infrastructure (PKI) or managed PKI can be used, thus securing data integrity, revenue streams and service continuity.

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